Why Scrum Doesn’t Live Up to Expectations

Scrum is a wonderful tool – until it isn’t. When things don’t go right, where does the blame fall? Is your team not doing it right? Or is Scrum itself to blame? Unfortunately, Scrum failure isn’t necessarily a black and white matter.  When Scrum doesn’t live up to expectations, these are some of the most common reasons why.

Focusing on Scrum, Not The Problem

Scrum is designed to help expose problems in the process. For example, say a project gets killed after two sprints because it becomes obvious that the project will take too long to return a profit. This isn’t necessarily a problem with Scrum. Scrum exposed the problem early on, saving a project from doom and a project owner from losing money.  When issues arise, take a look at the problem itself, rather than Scrum.

Letting One Sprint Determine Success

When you put together a new team, the first sprint rarely goes smoothly. With any team on any project, it takes a little bit of time for the team to settle in. Don’t scrap Scrum after the first sprint, assuming it doesn’t work. Everything new takes time to master.

Failing To Adapt

However, say your team has been Scrumming by the book for a while and the same problem keeps popping up over and over again. Can you now blame Scrum? Not so fast. If you keep running into the same issue, it usually means the team is not adapting to the process. Scrum will identify issues, and it’s the team’s job to come up with ways to eliminate those issues in the future. Scrum can still be Scrum, even if you adapt the process to the needs of your project and team.

Applying Scrum When Scrum Isn’t Right

There are times when Scrum is just not appropriate. Sprints are for fixed-scope processes that can be boxed into set timeframes, and that doesn’t work for every job. For example, reactionary processes like maintenance and support cannot be batched and sprinted given the rapidly-changing priorities of these ongoing processes. Applying Scrum to functions like that is a recipe for failure.

The Bottom Line

Whether you love Scrum or Agile gives you agita, the bottom line is clear: Don’t jump to conclusions. When issues arise and Scrum does not live up to expectations, drill down and diagnose the real problem before prescribing a solution. Remember, it’s not Scrum that succeeds. It’s not Scrum that fails. It’s the people choose to execute Scrum that ultimately determine success or failure.

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Source: Mike McCalla, Agile Professional